AC/DC Tour – Last Indoor Show..

Everybody is looking forward to going home after the AC/DC show tonight, except me.

I’ve drawn the short straw and ‘volunteered’ to drop off a transformer or six somewhere in the depths of Ireland. By ‘depths’, I mean I have a map on the back of a cigarette packet, and instructions to meet Vinnie in an unmarked quarry at 8pm tomorrow night.

And when I say ‘volunteered’, I mean I felt sorry for Little Dick who would prefer to see his daughters than mess about on ferries to Dublin again. You see, it’s his load that is going, not mine. In a weak, regrettable moment of generosity, I said I’d take it. We swap trailers; he will go home after the show and I will head up to Holyhead yet again.

First though, I have my pal, Jon, to visit. (Some may know him better as “Wrecker Jon”, due to an unfortunate accident on a Depeche Mode tour in Russia.) He lives only quarter of an hour away from Birmingham’s NEC, and picks me up for a little jaunt to Meriden, the centre of England.

Now that computers – and therefore GPS – have taken over our lives, Meriden has been found to be no longer dead centre. Coastal erosion has seen to that. A field nearby now holds the honour, but the monument itself remains on a patch of grass in the village of Meriden – to all intents and purposes still marking the spot.

As well as two pubs and a chip shop, there is also a memorial to cyclists that died in World War II. Odd? Yes, until an informative Jon reminds me that the Triumph factory is only round the corner, and that there are lots of bicycle manufacturers in Coventry, spitting distance away.

And did you know that Steve McQueen once picked up a motorbike from that very factory?

Back at Jon’s pad in sunny Tile Hill, his partner Kim is chained to the sink. Nice one, Jonboy. I’m only joking, of course, wholly in favour, as I am, of men doing the washing-up. Anyway, Jon used to bumble about trucking for bands – my partner in crime, if you like, in the old days – but he now runs a guitar studio, unsuccessfully.

Oh OK, so he makes tuppence on a bottle of pop from visiting musicians. But sadly, forsaking decades of wage slavery for artistic enterprise simply isn’t paying his bills.

I feel a little glum that, despite being lead guitarist for the most popular band in the Coventry area – and looking like at least one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis – he can barely stretch to a tin of tuna for my baguette.

We exchange rueful glances over a glass of Spanish red wine – my contribution to the picnic. And as we reminisce, I realise how much I like Jon’s sense of humour, and what a cracking memory he possesses.

He reminds me that eight years ago I was arm-wrestling a Mafia boss in a bar in St. Petersburg, Russia, sending the tables flying and smashing glasses. Is it worrying that I’ve forgotten this event?

Well, that’s about it for the indoor leg of AC/DC’s Black Ice Tour. There will now be a short break before we start the outdoor (stadium) stretch of the tour – the first gig is in Leipzig on May 13th. See you soon..

AC/DC Tour – Manchester to Birmingham..

Little Dick and I cycled to PC World last night. Computers, like the misused apostrophe, seem here to stay…and so the bullet must be bitten – laptops with cracked screens must be replaced.

Within seconds we’ve had enough. For a start it is airless inside the store, and, secondly, that bloody annoying voice keeps chanting “PC World” over the Tannoy. Neither of us wants to spend much money – we both own cars bought at around the £400 mark – and so our pimply attendant has only to explain the difference between the two cheapest models.

Great, that was easy – we’ll have two of your crappest laptops then, please. Ah, obviously they don’t have two in stock. Our teenager begins a spiel about other stores in Greater Manchester where they might have the same hardware. He utterly fails to notice that Little Dick is holding a detachable bicycle saddle, thereby unlikely to be travelling by car. However, as luck would have it, this store does have two different crap laptops.

“Spotty” wants our addresses at the checkout, and then tries every line in the book to encourage product care and support packages as extras. We mention that we leave the country again soon, making cancellation of one-month policies a trifle awkward.

‘When are you back again?’ he asks. We mention a figure of about three months, and he asks, in the manner of a boy knowing only PC World and the occasional disco, ‘Where are you going on holiday together?’

Talking of holidays, The National Exhibition Centre, situated romantically off the M42, would make rather a poor vacation spot. Granted, it has a train station and an airport, but it otherwise heralds little of interest.

Accordingly, at 11.30 sharp this morning, my mate Woody rolls up – ooh, in a BMW with a personalised plate – and whisks me away. ‘Alright. shag?’ he asks. They talk a bit funny in Worcestershire.

Back in his village, obviously after a pint and a pub lunch, he pretends to work – he organises double-drivers for the rock n roll touring industry. Protein supplements and energy drinks lie discarded alongside ashtrays. I suggest that these body-building stimulants are probably not designed for people intending to spend an idle afternoon checking Facebook.

‘They say not to do it every day,’ he says authoritatively, gesturing down the stairs to his personal gymnasium. As he lights a roll-up and sips a coffee, he maintains that, ‘It’s just a question of toning up a bit.’

On the way back to the truck we call in at Chateau Impney Hotel, a grand, incongruous edifice on the Worcester Road.

A little while ago – well, 1875, if we’re going to split hairs – a chap called John Corbett fell in love with a ravishing French Governess. Modelled on Versailles and the Loire Valley chateaux, he had this house built for her.

3000 men toiled on its construction, creating 155 acres of parkland. I can hardly wait to look inside. Ah, it is shut until tomorrow morning. Outside, however, a lazy, trickling waterfall in the manicured garden does its best to drown out the rumble of the nearby M5.

We can’t loiter too long, though, because Woody is meeting a girl for last orders. Oh great, that is, don’t worry about me..

AC/DC – Lancashire or Yorkshire?..

Great Aunt Gwen is attired in leather driving gloves, happily piloting the Mercedes well under the speed limit.

Full beam dazzles other road users, and she occasionally deigns to indicate off a roundabout, all the while calling me ‘daahling.’

She is taking me to a Lancashire village, for a hearty meal with her daughter, Judith, and Judith’s husband, Tom. Again, I’m not sure what sort of a relation Judith is – a cousin twice removed, or something equally convoluted, I expect.

Judith has a super house – a sheep farm, actually – that is a seventeenth century wool store on an old packhorse route. All is going swimmingly – animals clucking and baaing – until I’m not allowed a beer because I have to cycle later this evening. Tssk is what I say to that, and the decision is overruled. Tom joins me in a bottle of strong “Black Sheep“.

’See light yonder?’ asks Tom, in his broad dialect, while a feast is laid before us. The pub he is pointing at, on a distant hill, is where The Hollies wrote ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Judith gestures in the opposite direction to where the Bronte sisters lived. I butter another slice of damson bread, and wonder if I can get away with a second bottle of ale.

In yet another direction, across the Yorkshire border – it was moved in 1973, and the dispute continues – lies the ‘rhubarb triangle’. Under the cover of darkness, rhubarb is grown in an area pinned by three major towns.

It is picked by candlelight. When rhubarb is pink, it is ‘forced’; when green, it is ordinary. And there was me thinking that it’s grim up north – we’re surrounded by beauty and history.

Judith’s spare room is offered as a base for exploring, but, sadly, as you may have forgotten, I am actually on tour with AC/DC, requiring attendance to move a truck far more often than I’d like. As I’ve said before, the job would be great if it wasn’t for all the driving. Oh, and the loud music.

Back in Manchester today, we’re parked, for logistical reasons, not at the Evening News Arena but at the National Cycling Centre. Inside, seven days a week, as might be expected, cycling training or racing is held. Bikes, helmets and shoes can be hired for taster sessions, but I opt instead for a spot of safe spectatorship from the upstairs gallery.

After following a few circuits, I traipse downstairs again with a furrowed brow. A staff member attempts to explain the aspects of cycling that I don’t understand. Such as, why is part of the track at an angle of 45 degrees, and not flat?

And why do those lycra-clad chappies have filled-in wheels? She blushes and shrugs, but has a reasonable stab at answering my questions.

Just then, a man in a leotard emerges from the changing rooms, pushing a racing cycle. Ah, the very man to ask. I didn’t notice whether he shaves his legs to gain extra speed, but let’s assume that he does.

He tells me that the steep slope is for sprint races, to gain acceleration – though surely time is lost ascending it first? – and that the ‘disc wheels’ are an aerodynamic feature, to eliminate air between the spokes. ‘There y’ar,’says the staff girl, ‘I told yer it were summat t’ do wi’ wind.’ ..

AC/DC – Aunts and Apostrophes..

Bury, near Manchester, has a famous market. Famous for what, though, I wonder?

Well, not much, except hot Vimto drinks and superfluous apostrophes. I hate to harp on; comparable to world poverty and war-ravaged states, the erroneous apostrophe is hardly a humdinger of an issue.

Yet Britain’s educational downward spiral is a shame. Nipping the misused apostrophe in the bud is evidently no longer an option – I think we shall have to cede defeat, and accept, heart-breaking as it is, that its correct use is a lost cause.

Even in the wilds of Lancashire today, I saw a sign warning that a road was “unsuitable for HGV’s”. Now, if the Department for Transport are at it, its employees no doubt waist-high in university degrees, what chance does the layman have?

So I think we can also safely say that a degree is no longer a proof of literacy. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I – I haven’t got one. Anyway, let’s crack on with today’s events.

I am in Bury to visit my Great Aunt Gwen, Grandpa John’s ‘substantially’ younger sister. I rang yesterday, describing where I shall be parked with the truck, and blatantly angling to be collected by car.

‘I’m parked at Sport City, next to…’ I started, but she silenced me peremptorily. ‘Get the tram to Bury,’ she snapped, adding, ‘It’ll be lovely to see you, darling.’ She put down the telephone.

Oh right, I’ll make my own way there, then. Great aunts, certainly wickeder than ordinary aunts, are not to be trifled with.

The weather is lovely today, far too nice to be on trams, and so I cycle instead. Puffing and panting after eleven miles of gradual elevation, I call the Rochdale residence from Bury. ‘I’m busy,’ she says. ‘It’s about three miles from there. See you soon.’ In Gwen’s defence, through a misunderstanding, I arrive seven hours earlier than we’d agreed – apparently.

Gwen is marvellous, with an infectious laugh, and an underlying mischievousness. She does not, as I had naturally presumed, play bingo most nights and totter between bedrooms quaffing crème de menthe. She runs a private nursery for thirty children, and is being uncooperative regarding a photo for the blog.

Now, while Grandpa John would have offered a comfy chair and a glass of San Giovese by now, Gwen is feeding three babies…and even a cup of tea takes a bit of prompting. Things seem a bit thick, and I feel rather up against it.

A female staff member eventually brings me a steaming mug, and a saucy glance secures a biscuit, too.

But actually drinking anything is hampered by a four-year-old hanging off my left ear. Then a gaggle of three-year-old girls excitedly jostle, badger and harass me, making a short nap simply impossible.

At 2pm, Gwen takes me to the pub – ah, bliss. A pint of Lancashire bitter and a walk along dry stone walls in the sunshine is perfectly lovely. Knowing nothing of the rock ‘n’ roll industry – and my duties therein – she tells me we shall be driving to her daughter Judith’s house for supper. Erm, there was talk of manoeuvring trucks for AC/DC back in Manchester at 7pm.

I ring our Number One driver, Sean, who organises all the truck parking and movements, explaining that dining with a great aunt has arisen. ‘Oh well, I’ll cancel everything, then,’ he says cordially, with the merest hint of caustic sarcasm. As I say, great aunts are not to be trifled with..

AC/DC – Dublin to Manchester..

What with all the excitement, I forgot to mention that Namibian – or Don Juan, to his friends – has had a ladyfriend with him for the last few days.

No, she has not been picked up as a disposable pleasure along the way; this is Janet, and they live together.

Namibian, rather generously, has been allowing her to sleep in the truck with him. Outrageous I know, and he accuses me of being a ‘tight arcs’. Even I used to shell out for a hotel when Boiler flew out for a few days on tour – admittedly a cheap one, but nonetheless the rooms were always more than six foot square.

If, as Swiss Justine once asked, you’re wondering how Namibian fits in the cabin on his own, we are now faced with a double whammy. Presumably Janet drapes herself over his stomach, colliding with the top bunk as he inhales.

Exhaling is no less calamitous: a paroxysm of coughing as air escapes might very well propel her onto the steering wheel, bouncing her from there to the gearstick, ricocheting off the handbrake and landing unceremoniously onto the foot pedals.

This is pure conjecture of course, but it explains the hounded look of a sleepless night when they emerge in the mornings. Or, as I say, he may be Don Juan. It’s a good job we’re such good pals. At least we were. Namibian? Hello?

After a magnificent sailing aboard Ulysses again, we bumble through a sunlit North Wales, oohing at the beauty of the coast here. As a diurnal animal, entirely unsuited to rock ‘n’ roll trucking, this is as good as it gets for me. It’s still working for a living, I realise, but one can’t have everything. Something is bound to go wrong…and it does.

Pulling out of Chester Services, I completely forget to fasten the milk-bottle top. You can see what’s coming can’t you? Yes, an abrupt stop at a junction soaks the cab: crosswords are ruined, travel guides despoiled. The interior carpet is now abandoned in a Manchester car park bin..

AC/DC Tour – A drink in Dublin?..

I suppose you think I’m well rested after a good night’s sleep? No, I’m not, thanks for asking.

Why does the human body, when seriously in need of recovery, wake us up for no earthly good reason? At 4am I get a serious bout of hiccups. There is surely a medical reason for the affliction but they seem to me nothing short of a dashed nuisance. They last an hour, by which time it’s hardly worth going back to sleep again.

The situation strikes me as precarious: five years ago, in Prague, I took a sip of cold Pilsener which set me hiccupping furiously. Lying on my stomach, sleep was eventually achieved…but the condition lasted 52 hours. I thought at the time that the trombone playing career might well be in tatters.

Quite frankly, I’d rather be tormented by a feudal lord in the Carpathian Mountains – impaled, roasted and flayed if necessary – than go through all that again. Today, fortunately, the morning passes without – ahem – a hiccup.

Lunch sets them off again. Well, if one is to resemble a drunkard, hiccupping as though pickled in gin, one may as well have a drop of poison – we are in Dublin after all. A gentle cycle along the River Liffey then, brings me to The Temple Bar, confusingly the name of a pub within the area known as Temple Bar. Still with me?

As you enter the inn’s hallowed entrance, history and conversation vie for your attention in equal parts; fading barrels and whiskey advertisements adorn the beer “garden”, and travellers from around the world chat over a drink or three.

Established in 1840, this is a local institution, and houses Ireland’s largest whiskey collection. In fact, both whiskey (Irish) and whisky (Scotch) are sold.

As Namibian’s nose reddens, and our pockets grow lighter, it’s rather a sobering thought that there are more than 410 different bottles to try. I have a pint of Guinness while contemplating just how much alcohol that is.

Outside, a market is in full swing. A teenager is bashing a drum kit with an astonishing lack of dexterity – in fact, it’s quite clear that, aside from a Kentucky Fried Chicken, he’s never held a drumstick in his life.

However, he perseveres for a full twenty minutes, successfully drowning out a professional string quartet celebrating the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.

Remarkably, seventy cents is flung onto the cymbal case, which sadly encourages him to attempt a drum roll. Oh heaven help us, the poor lad wouldn’t know a paradiddle if it bopped him on the nose.

Talking of noses, this ineluctable tendency of the modern generation to misuse apostrophes really gets up mine. FILM’S indeed! Honestly! Do I have to stress, yet again, that apostrophes denote omission or possession, NOT PLURALS? Come on, this really needs nipping in the bud..

AC/DC – Where’s the Restaurant?..

The colour of one’s deckchair is crucial: it calls into question one’s sexuality. The good news, then, is that my green deckchair left in Zurich was not in fact ruined, but rescued by another driver: hawk-eyed Ken. The bad news..

Erm, there isn’t any bad news except that most of us could happily have remained at home for a bit longer. So, no more pink deckchairs for me. Namibian talks of donating the – now redundant – polka-dot eyesore to Little Dick for a small fee.

To prove a point of machismo, we roll the trucks onto the weighbridge in Holyhead, Wales this morning, before boarding “Ulysses” to Dublin. Namibian weighs in at 26 tons, and I, despite a usual diet of fish and vegetables, come in at a whopping 36, 200kg. Well, no wonder I’m struggling on the hills.

In the manliness stakes, I suggest that Namibian should think about taking up hairdressing instead. By the way, he has retracted his statement that ‘I lose weight all the time’, finally admitting that he might have picked up an ounce or two on this tour.

He looks at the map of the ship. ‘Now, if we’re here, where is the drivers’ restaurant?’

The “Ulysses” is enormous. In fact, she is the world’s largest car ferry. Standing twelve decks high, and grossing 50,938 tonnes, she offers plenty of scope for walking round in circles trying to find the freight lounge.

Just getting out of the car deck is bad enough: there is almost three miles of parking space. The crossing is calm, we find something to eat, and watch a helicopter perform a training exercise, landing on Deck 11.

Remember Cookie? Yes, that’s him, the chap who regards jazz as ‘playing the wrong tune’. Well, he lives in Ireland and is consequently engaged in a little furniture-moving endeavour.

He’s loaded up from a relative’s house in England – disappointingly he hasn’t even gone off route – and now faces the task of fitting chairs and tables into a van already containing his wife Caroline and four children. Oh, and the van is already clogged to the gunwales with bric-a-brac. Little Dick and I offer to help.

‘Be careful where you step,’ says Cookie, ‘there are demijohns for homebrew in that box.’ Little Dick has some experience in removal jobs, and is last seen underneath a cardboard box, trying to find an anchor point for a strap.

You see, Irish roads aren’t the smoothest: we’re concerned that the four-hour journey to Kerry is more than enough time to have a child’s eye out with a chair-leg.

While I unpack the trombone for a rendition of “The Acrobat”, one of Cookie’s little urchins has a pee against Da’s lorry..

So hungry I have to visit Grandma..

Grandparents are not to be taken for granted.

I am incredibly lucky to have three of them still kicking about, and really do thank my lucky stars. My advice is to make the most of them while they’re still with you.

Grandma is now 90 but still full of beans – certainly potty, but compos mentis and wonderful. Dad offers her a drop of the cheapest table wine that money can buy in France. ‘Oh, the merest tot, just to be convivial,’ she says. You can see where I get it from, can’t you?

The electricity then cuts out. This soon sorts out the men from the boys; namby-pambys with microwaves would be doomed, forced out to the chip shop. Not so for the old Davies campaigners. A paraffin lamp happens to be nearby, and there is a good deal of wheeling up wicks, and talk of snuffers. Grandma sneaks off to the kitchen to for a quick cough and to grate some cheese, calling Dad’s mobile phone a ‘microwave’.

Father’s propensity in the cooking department is pretty much the same as mine but we’ve thought ahead. Aunty Gilly – another aunty who falls outside the label of ‘wicked’ – has left us a bolognaise sauce. Surely we can manage that?

I check Grandma hasn’t grated her fingers along with the parmesan, and ask how her piano playing is these days. Over the feedback in her earpiece, she interprets this as, ‘Where’s the telephone?’ Oh dear..

Back at the oven, a good deal of head-scratching ensues. Grandma turns on the gas well before Dad can bend down with a lighted match, which leaves us all shouting urgent, incoherent instructions at each other.

I think Dad is all too aware of that time when his hair actually caught fire while leaning over the Aga. It was priceless to see him dashing upstairs to the bathroom, actually ablaze.

So, even with a pre-prepared meal, it still takes three of us to conjure up something edible: one to hold the torch, one to get in the way, and one to cook. We take turns to hold the middle position.

Returning to my in-tray for a moment, there is a letter from that rascal Grandpa. Yes, there are a few of us left who still correspond by ‘snail mail’. It really is so much nicer to receive a penned account of goings-on in the Umbrian mountains rather than an email.

Actually, there’s little danger of electronic mail from that neck of the woods, because why does he need the internet? He has a fantastic life that would be ruined by those blasted pop-ups and pages ‘freezing’.

Anyway, he still manages to imbue in me a sense of literary inadequacy, and I, by return post, highlight the odd spelling mistake that he tries to mask with an increasingly illegible style of handwriting. This time he harangues me, with references to ‘Mind the Gaffe’, published by Penguin.

I tell you, a family get-together, with Mum and Grandpa, is just a laugh a minute: arguing the finer points of the gerund, that infamous verbal noun ending, over a lentil-based dish. Don’t most families watch the Eastenders omnibus?..

PS. I almost forgot that this is a rock n roll AC/DC blog so: we’re off to Dublin tonight. Guitars, trucks, noise, yeah..

Coo, I miss her cooking..

Though AC/DC are in London for three days, and there are zillions of things to do in the city, I’ve gone home again.

I agonised a bit at first, because really I should take the opportunity to visit city-dwelling chums. But then I thought: ‘No, blast them, I’m going back to the beach.’

I know that I’ve just had four days at home, but given the amount of time spent away on tour this year, it’s a no-brainer decision.

Also, four days only made a small dent in the postal in-tray; my poor little abode was, and in a sense still is, buckling under the sheer magnitude of mail. Don’t assume that I mean fan mail from blog readers. Oh, you weren’t.

Yes, you were right the first time: letters from banks, the council tax office and telephone companies. It’s never-ending of course; I pop out on tour for just three months, and banking concerns – by phone to Delhi – have rather stacked up again. So, to finish what I’ve started, I’m in Hastings.

Ah, the joys of domesticity. Now that my ex-girlfriend has moved out – known affectionately as The Old Boiler, or The Gargoyle if you prefer a less derogatory pet name – there is a serious catering issue in this house. She was invaluable in culinary matters, and I miss her sorely when I’m home. My tummy certainly does. We do, however, remain firm friends.

Selfishly, Boiler turned down my offer of a winter contract, just when I needed her most. Women are so blooming complex, aren’t they?

Fancy not wanting to be my girlfriend just to get me through the chilly months. To my utter surprise – when the nights began to draw in – she didn’t even consider the alluring contract, even after six years together. Oh, well.

Actually, I’m not sure that I should admit to being unable to cook; buying all the wine and living with attractive women is maybe only a short-term solution. But I’ll soldier on until an alternative presents itself.

Oh, and I must say, I’m finding this idea of ironing clothes a little irksome. For a start, I’m ironing in the creases into a shirt marked ‘non-iron’. What the hell are all these dials? Boiler, help..

Having opened a personal window into my life – introducing you to the Old Boiler – I thought maybe you’d also be interested in my car. She’s of a similar vintage, actually. And this performance Citroen AX has a full, throaty one-litre under the bonnet.

OK, so the radio doesn’t work, and there is no bass tube in the boot, but she will comfortably do a whopping seventy miles per hour.

She shakes a bit above that and, in top gear (fourth), she’s a bit noisy, so sixty-five is more practical. I suppose I should have quoted these high speeds in kilometres per hour – to make them sound even more impressive..

AC/DC Tour – Tunnel Vision..

If you can cast your mind back a week or so, you’ll remember we were enjoying rather splendid weather in Zurich.

As a result, the inimitable Namibian generously loaned out my deckchair – an essential piece of touring apparatus – to a long-haired girl.

Strict instructions were left, to the tune of: ‘Leave the chair next to my truck or the blonde gets it,’ as I exited the gate. In fact, she did as she was told, but it was left resting on the nearside wheel – I couldn’t see it from the driving seat – which is no good to neither man nor beast.

The crux, then, is that I drove off in the dark, leaving the chair to a fate of abuse by trailer wheels.

You’re wondering why I recount all this? Well, because that dear Namibian, cognisant of partial culpability – and I would hope brimming with guilt and unable to sleep at night – has bought us brand new matching deckchairs. They are frankly ghastly, and we look very much like a betrothed couple in these ‘his and hers’ chairs.

While the pink polka dots may admittedly match my thermos flask, these items are rapidly shattering the rugged “Big Wheel”’ persona I’ve been building up over the last few months. Intrepid explorers, handling thirty-eight-ton vehicles around Europe on rock tours, do not sit in pink deckchairs sipping tea from pink flasks. Do they?

However, the deckchair is a superb vantage point from which to keep an eye on matters. Something is afoot in the car park overlooking the Thames; I go to investigate.

Ah, the age-old dilemma of whether we can squeeze our lorries northbound through the Blackwall Tunnel is in full swing.

Well, it’s tight – somehow more so in a “left hooker” (a term for left-hand drive truck, and nothing to do with prostitutes) – but doable. Or not, if, as in David’s case, your trailer is an abnormal height. The tape measure is out, and there is no denying that supposedly identical vehicles are wildly differing in height.

If you’re a girl, you’d presumably only notice that the trucks are black. If you’re a boy, you make measurements of about the length of a finger and say: ‘That’s nine inches, isn’t it?’ As it turns out, David is certainly four inches bigger than the rest of us.

He will have to head southeast – using Dartford Tunnel instead – in order to eventually travel northwest.

The rest of us, meanwhile, will attempt the nerve-wrackingly narrow Blackwall Tunnel, shaving fifteen minutes off the journey, and quite possibly a little paint off the trailers.

Nobody minds the random, arcane tidbits I throw into the blog, do they? You see, I ought to have done something special for my fiftieth travel blog, but how about pearls of information – meted out like raindrops – instead? Oh, and a reference to my youth, just for good measure..

Backpedalling for a moment to Zurich, and presumably the rest of Switzerland, I can tell you that bicycle owners there must buy a vignette. I know, how fascist is that? This mandatory certificate covers not only road tax – for a bicycle! – but also insurance in the event of an accident.

In England, though there may be advisory policies in place, one can remain unregistered. This leads to a general disregard of red lights – to be treated as “give way” or only for wimps, and surely not applicable to me.

I was very glad of the anonymity, actually, when cycling through Blackwall Tunnel as a youngster – yes, I really did, studiously ignoring the prohibitive signs. It was one of those occasions when you wish you hadn’t started something, but the point of no return had been reached..

And incidentally, Zurich is not the capital of Switzerland, as you were thinking – it is, in fact, Bern..